1. Positive Emotions Help You Build up Resilience

    April 16, 2014

    Positive Emotions Help You Build up Resilience

     

    Why do some people endure despite all? Why do some people can still see the bright sunny day despite everything bad that happens to them? How come there are people who can still stand tall when everything seems crumbling down? Why does someone, after a violent passing for instance, gives in to alcohol while another chooses to help others survive like they did? That is the question many researchers are trying to answer. What makes people thrive despite adversity?

    Being resilient

    Resilience is a key concept. Being a resilient person doesn’t mean that events don’t hurt the same as it would hurt anyone else. It just means you have more resources to stand up and fight the negativity in our life, despite all the hurt it may cause you. In the end you will use that hurt is an adaptive and constructive way.

    Why is resilience so important? It serves as a mental health protection. In face of tragedy, resilient people will not perish and give in to depression, helplessness or despair. Of course not everyone is as resilient as their next door neighbor and that’s ok. Because resilience is also something that can be built.

    “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”

    The famous sentence by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche applies here when discussing resilience. Actually the more though situations you go through, you are more likely to have both the experience and the ability to answer once that same challenge is presented to you a second time.

    But what if positive emotions could also serve as a fuel for resilience? Fredrickson’s broaden-and-built model of positive emotions argues that positive emotions broaden our scope of action and thought, and also build up as resources to be used in stressful situations.

    In their study Cohn, Fredrickson, Brown, Mikels and Conway were able to link daily positive emotions experiences to ego resilience. Ego resilience is a “fairly stable personality trait that helps people adapt to their environment by identifying opportunities, adapting to constraints and bouncing back from misfortune” (page 362). In their study they found that experiencing daily positive emotions helps build ego resilience and deal with mild to moderate stressors, in a more constructive way. Ultimately growing your ego resilience will also help you experience higher levels of life satisfaction. But, as the authors of this study warn us, in cases of extreme psychological pain or psychopathology these results are not able to be seen.

    How can you be more resilient in your life?

    • Focus on the positive. It has to do with the kind of lenses you use to see the world. If we wish to focus solely on the negative, then we will find no reason to live and endure the kind of pain there is in the world. But nothing is ever just bad or just good. But focusing on the good will help attract more good things your way.
    • And search for it. We sometimes have a tendency for self-destruction and self-pity. But what if you decide to break the cycle and start searching for the positive emotions in your life? It may take a while but you’ll soon find more reasons to look on the bright side.
    • Keep feeding the positivity cycle in your life. Experiencing positive emotions in your life will decrease your stress levels, which in turn will help you build more resources, which will make you seek for more positivity in your life in a constant cycle.
    • Learn from experience. Staying in touch with the philosophers, Socrates said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. The way I see it, it means that thinking life through will help you grow and not repeat the same mistakes again, making you a better person. So, if you examine your life and learn from your experience, you will learn how to seek positive emotions and build your resilience.

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chrisschoenbohm/9916669806


  2. Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism

    April 14, 2014

    Gratitude as a Coping Mechanism

    Gratitude is a powerful feeling. It makes us appreciate all the good we have in our lives and enjoy it for what it is, instead of craving for the next big thing. Which in turn will leave us constantly unsatisfied with our lives, because there will always be something more to crave for. Gratitude is a characteristic of people experiencing higher levels of well-being with known reports of 67% of grateful people experiencing gratitude “all the time” and up to 60% reporting that expressing gratitude “made them feel very happy” (Gallup: “Survey results on gratitude, adults and teenagers“). But can gratitude also function as a coping mechanism? Can it helps us deal with life’s biggest adversities and still flourish?

    Researchers Wood, Joseph and Linley set out to answer just that.

    Gratitude is correlated to happiness  and well-being

    Research done so far has shown that dispositional Gratitude has the highest correlations with life satisfaction and well-being. And consequently negative correlations with depression and envy. Which makes sense, if grateful people are focused on their achievements and value them, their sense of self-efficacy is higher and they will not envy what others have achieved that much.

    Others studies have shown that inducing gratitude during weeks in people has proven to have improvements on happiness, depression and even physical health (for a revision of studies check Wood, Joseph and Linley’s 2007 article).

    What seems to be in place here, is that not only gratitude is an important mechanism in well-being and optimism but it can also serve as a coping mechanism during stressful situations. Being grateful might actually help you deal in a more constructive way with stress and life’s adversities, making you flourish as a person.

    Gratitude is a Positive Emotion

    According to Fredrickson’s (1998, 2001) broaden-and-built model of positive emotions, positive emotions can serve as resources for building up resilience in people, as those positive emotions are stored to be used in stressful or threatening situations. But also, positive emotions are key aspects in pushing us towards an action. And given that, positive emotions helps push forward instead of holding us back.

    Gratitude seems to correlate to a higher social approach strategy, as studies have shown that grateful people are also likely to express extroversion, agreeableness, forgiveness and empathy. Which are important characteristics to consider in social interaction because they make others want to approach us.

    Grateful people see the world as a hospitable place, deemphasizing (not ignoring) the negative side of life which in turn may help them deal actively with problems they may encounter.

    But the question is: Do grateful people have more psychological resources?

    According to Wood, Joseph and Linley’s (2007) findings coping mechanisms mediate the relationship between stress and gratitude. But it also showed important differences between grateful people:

    1)      Grateful people tend to seek out emotional and instrumental social support as a coping mechanism, make use of positive reinterpretation and growth and planning

    2)      Grateful people used more positive coping mechanisms, like approaching problems instead of avoiding them

    Inversely, gratitude was negatively correlated with behavioral disengagement, self-blame, substance abuse and denial. Which can all be seen as negative coping mechanisms as they are meant to avoid problems and not fix them.

    This means that grateful people tend to use more positive strategies to deal with stress and their issues by reaching out to friends and family for support, which in turn helps decrease their levels of stress and depression and function as an active way to solve problems instead of avoiding them.

    Can being grateful be a good thing for you? It sure can. Not only because it increases your levels of well-being and life satisfaction but it can also help you cope with stress. Now the question remains: how can you be more grateful?

     


  3. Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    April 9, 2014

    Reflections on a Search for Meaning

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    If you are searching for the meaning in your life, it can help to study the sunlight reflected in a mirror. Of course, a mirror does not really produce the sun’s rays; it simply reflects them. In the same way, a virtuous and goodly person has the ability to reflect the spiritual qualities that he or she has developed by relating to and sharing with others. In fact, those who strive to achieve that particular goal have managed to discover the meaning in life.

    Obviously, the human body does not possess a reflective surface. Still, that does not mean that those who search for the meaning in life would be foolish to consider the fact that mirrors prove most useful when they have been polished properly. In fact, those who are willing to view the heart as a mirror can best understand how to ensure their ability to create a clear reflection of their spiritual qualities.

    Polishing removes the dust from a mirror’s surface. It allows the reflected light to shine-threw more clearly. Sometimes the spiritual qualities of the human heart remain unrevealed, because those same qualities have been covered-up by the results of an effort that has failed to focus on life’s true meaning.

    (more…)


  4. Savoring and Living in the Present

    April 7, 2014

    Savoring and Living in the Present

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    It seems nowadays that everyone is either living fast-forward or in the future. We either rush through our weeks and months without thinking what would be the right course of action or we constantly dream of a better future and end up spending most of time longing for a future that will come. But what about living in the present?

    Sure having plans, being optimistic and hopeful is great, and will probably give you the right motivation to carry out your projects. But what about enjoying the present moment? Not letting life pass you by? I’m sure you wouldn’t want to look back and realize you wasted priceless moments of your present from being too focused on the future.

    I suggest you watch the film Click with Adam Sandler to get a sense of what I’m talking about.

    Why are we all so worried about the future?

    Most likely because we’re afraid of it. So we dwell on what will be and instead of what is. And isn’t it better to dream about the future than to sometimes face the harsh reality? It may feel better to run from the present but it’s certainly not the best to avoid living one’s own life.

    Carpe Diem not the same as Savoring

    The concept of Carpe Diem is often associated with hedonism – the search for meaningless pleasure – which is not quite the same as savoring. Savoring is intended to help you live in the moment, reaching awareness to what’s around you and re-connecting with your reality. And enjoying your life for what it is, not what it could be.

    How can I savor a little more?

    Try this exercise for a while: take 30 minutes of your time to freeze a moment in your head. Do you have children? Watch them play for a while, hear them laugh, see the joy in them, look at how big they are, feel your love for them. If you don’t have children, try doing the same with your spouse, your friends, your parents…

    Remember: tomorrow everything will be different, the same moment cannot be relived twice. Simply because you’ll also be different. The observer will see differently just because the experience cannot be interpreted in the same way.

    A few savoring strategies:

    Stop to enjoy. Make the conscious act to stop and look at something you’ve seen every day in a different way.  Look at your spouse, your children for a little while or just observe your garden for instance. Can you see time pass?

    Be thankful for what you got. Make a list of everything in your life you’re grateful for: people, family, friends, experiences, things. It may be hard to fill out the list the first couple times you do it, but try doing it for a week and suddenly it gets huge! What does this make for you? Focusing on the positive aspects of your life will help you fill your life with positivity.

    Spread love in your life. Have you noticed how small acts of kindness make huge changes in your life and the life of others? Try smiling or having a kind word for someone. Do you see the positive results? You’ve probably made someone’s day. And that person is more likely to repeat an act of kindness to someone else.

    Do something for yourself. Take some time off to do something you truly enjoy. If you can get some company, better. If not, being on your own is also a healthy way to spend time. It could be a long bath, a walk, doing some sport, reading bedtime stories to your children…

    Have you savored life recently?

    [From the editor: If you are interested in this topic I can also recommend you to read an excellent book of Eckhart Tolle “The Power of Now“]

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/63953851@N06/11524949976

     

     

     


  5. How NOT to Fear Death

    April 4, 2014

    How NOT to Fear Death

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

     

    Bought the farm. Kicked the bucket. Pushing up daises. Six feet under. Worm food. Lets face it. Death is a scary thing. We wouldn’t have coined these euphemisms otherwise. They allow us to talk about it without naming death outright. But why IS death so scary? What is it about the BIG sleep that makes us so afraid?

    Our ceasing to exist. We love life so much that we can’t imagine that it will end-even though we have been told it WILL end at some point. So how can we combat this fear and learn to live with the unavoidable? Simple: Just ask the son of Erik or, as we know him, Erik Erikson.

    Erik Erikson was a German-born American developmental psychologist. While he may not have earned a Ph.D. he certainly professed an interesting idea of human development. Unlike Freud who claimed our psyches were formed at the ripe age of five, Erikson believed we spend our whole lives developing. His theory of psychosocial development is made up of eight stages and by digging through them we can find an essential key to accepting death. So what are they?

     

    Stage 1: Hope: Trust vs. Mistrust. (Ages 0-2)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I trust the world?

    In this stage we learn whether or not we can trust the world by how regularly we are cared for. If our parents tend to us habitually and do everything they can to satisfy our basic needs we not only learn to trust our surroundings, but we also to trust the world at large and develop hope.

    On the flip side: If our parents fail to fulfill our basic needs we take that as a sign that the world at large CAN’T be trusted.

     

    Stage 2: Will: Autonomy Vs. Shame and Doubt. (Ages 2-4)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to be me?

    This stage teaches us self-sufficiency. We also start to explore our interests and who we are as a person. If our parents let us complete tasks we can handle (such as using the toilet or pouring our own milk) we learn how to be autonomous and to how to express ourselves.

    On the flip side: If our parents expect too much from us or ridicule every attempt to complete tasks we can do on our own, we feel shame and doubt. Facing our own problems without help also becomes much harder.

     

    Stage 3: Purpose: Initiative Vs. Guilt. (Ages 4-5)

     

    Central Crisis: Is it OK to do, move, and act?

    In this crucial stage we move beyond simply acting to acting with a purpose. We take on leadership roles and prepare to meet goals set by others or ourselves. Guilt is a new emotion and can sometimes be felt when there is no logical reason. We also take risks, develop judgment, and basically try to gain more independence. Parents help us in this stage by showing how to set realistic goals for the things want to do.

    On the flip side: If we don’t complete an action on time OR if what we want to do interferes with other plans we can become frustrated and act out. If parents and teachers fail to encourage us to set goals OR belittle the interests we have we tend to feel guilty about them.

     

    Stage 4: Competence: Industry vs. Inferiority (Ages 5-12)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make it in the wide world?

    We become more aware of whom we are and how time works. We try to do what is right. But most essentially, we build on the interests we started to develop in the earlier stages. If parents find activities that match our interests we become happy and more independent.

    On the flip side: If parents don’t nurture our interests we lose motivation to complete activities and can become both couch and mouse potatoes.

     

    Stage 5:Fidelity: Identity vs. Role Confusion (Ages, 13-19)

     

    Central Crisis: Who am I? What can I be?

    As with every stage you are forced through a crisis, this crisis being identity. To fully transition from childhood to adulthood you have to find an identity that fits you authentically. You did (or do) this by trying on different roles (such as being a jock, drama geek, or partner) to see which suited you best. Sometimes you may experience “Roles Confusion.” This happens when you don’t know exactly where you fit and will often try on extreme roles to find one that does. You also often ponder how you will act in the real adult world.

    On the flip side: One of the mixed blessings of this stage is that you will finally get in touch with how you feel about your life and possible career choices. But those might not match up with how your parents and society feel and could cause you to stop trying to find “yourself.”

     

    Stage 6: Love: Intimacy vs. Isolation (Ages, 20-24, or 20-39)

    Central Crisis: Can I love someone else?

    As we start to solidify who we are as a person we open ourselves up to long-term relationships. This means we are capable of making the necessary sacrifices to nourish close friendships and marriages.

    On the flip side: We may be so fearful of rejection that we’ll close ourselves off to people and relationships.

     

    Stage 7: Care: Generativity vs. Stagnation (Ages, 25-64, or 40-64)

     

    Central Crisis: Can I make my life count?

     

    Now we get to the T-bone of what holds together this steak called Prime Life.  By now we have learned to trust the world, to trust ourselves, who we are, and how to love. You have no doubt picked a career and have a family to call your own. So how do you make your life count? According to Erikson you must give yourself back to the world that made you to feel successful and happy.

    On the flip side: If you cannot contribute to society you will feel stagnate and unfulfilled. This feeling leads right into the last and final stage.

     

     Stage 8:Wisdom: Ego Integrity vs. Despair (Ages 65-death)

     

    Central Crisis: Was it OK to have been me?

     

    As we grow older we tend to look back on our lives. Did we do all that we wanted? Did we lead a successful life? If you have you’ll feel happy and ready to accept death because you know that you’ve contributed to something that will live longer then yourself.

    On the flip side: If you haven’t live how you wanted, or, if things got in the way of you getting what you wanted out of life you can feel depressed, hopeless, and fearful of death. With your bucket list knocked over and your life left unfinished the thought of not excising can seem scary. So how do you fix this? By doing exactly what Erikson suggests in stage seven. By contributing to something that will live longer then us we lessen our fears of death because we know that a part of us lives almost immortally.

    But what’s even more beautiful about this is that your contribution does not have to be a large one. It could be as small as volunteering at a no-kill animal shelter, getting involved with your kids or grand kids, or sharing your amazing life story. Everyone has the key to quenching the fear of death and we at Dream Positive know that with a little work, you can find yours.

     

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/29468339@N02/3419565232

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     


  6. Millennial Generation Wants Make the World a Better Place

    April 2, 2014

    Millennial Generation Wants Make the World a Better Place

    by Sue Chehrenegar

     

    According to a recent poll, one with some very interesting results, a large group of young men and women could be viewed as members of a party on a quest. The poll’s results, which were posted on the website for the Barna Group, indicated that up to 87% of the young people that had been surveyed wanted to have a meaningful life. In other words, each of them hoped to discover how to give true meaning to their lives.

    Most people would agree that a meaningful life is one that manages to better the world in some way. Yet that does not really explain what approach ought to be pursued by someone who wants to give-back to others, in order to improve the world in some fashion. What aspects of a lifestyle allow it to qualify as one that others would view as noteworthy and meaningful?

    Would a readiness to become a continuous source of commentary on how to behave demonstrate the type of qualities that one could expect to find in a noteworthy individual? Well, more than 50 years ago, children were encouraged to believe that such was the case. Those children had heard their parents say a phrase such as this: Do as I say, not as I do.

    Now, however, people have learned to be wary of those individuals who behave in ways that contrast sharply with the recommendations made in their comments. In other words, it is best to avoid those who have chosen to utter words that differ markedly from their deeds. The utterance (or the writing and publishing) of such words does not really add great meaning to any life.

    The deeds that do add meaning to a life are those that could be termed pure or goodly. A pure deed is one that has been done with the idea of providing the recipient with an added benefit. It has not been seen as a means for gaining greater recognition, or for collecting some quick cash.

    A goodly deed is one that would be viewed as virtuous. It might be an act of kindness. It could be a true demonstration of courage. It could be the type of behavior that encourages others to act in the correct manner. That was what Gandhi would do, when he would fast until a situation had improved to his satisfaction.

    Gandhi’s conduct, although unusual was certainly commendable. Young people who display commendable conduct have reason to feel that they have provided their lives with an added bit of meaning. They have behaved in a way that has highlighted their desired to make the world a better place.

    Of course, it is not always easy to follow a path such as the one taken by Gandhi. Indeed, those who try to go down such a path must expect to encounter some roadblocks. Those are the tests that help to make a life all the more meaningful.

    A meaningless life could be compared to a barren field. It might look perfectly smooth, but it cannot be used to produce any crops. It cannot be a place where trees bear fruit or where a sown field can yield a harvest. It has not been dug into or plowed; it has not been tested.

    When a young person on a quest for greater meaning faces a test, that same person shapes his or her spirit in the same way that a bit of barren ground could be dug-into and shaped. That testing allows the tested person to have a stronger spirit. That stronger spirit exists inside of an individual who has the ability to succeed, after choosing to launch a quest for a meaningful life.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/71264537@N03/6443166521


  7. Positive Psychology: The AIM Concept

    March 30, 2014

    Positive Psychology: The AIM Concept

    Many people have tried mainstream methods, such as psychotropic medication and cognitive-behavioral therapy, to fight mental health conditions.  Some individuals who have suffered from depression, anxiety and other disorders have found that these conventional means of dealing do not always have satisfactory results.  Finding the right psychotropic medication can be a trial-and-error process; although some people are able to find relief with their first prescription, many others need to try multiple medications (often with negative side effects) before they find a medication or combination of medications that help them.  In terms of therapy, some people struggle to become comfortable discussing personal issues with someone, especially a stranger.  Other people may not be able to form a positive connection with a therapist, leading them to stop therapy and forgo searching for someone new (for fear the same thing will happen again).  For this and other reasons, people often turn to alternative means to find reprieve from their mental health ailments.

     

    One way in which you can utilize positive psychology is to AIM for a more positive life.  AIM is an acronym for Attending, Interpreting and Memorizing.  Let’s talk about each of these in a bit more detail.

     

    Attending is something many of us fail to do, especially when it comes to the positive doings in our lives.  However, we are quick to beat ourselves up and put ourselves down when things go wrong; this is counterproductive to positive psychology.  In part, we are not to blame – we are bombarded with negative messages nearly every minute of every day – from co-workers, family members, the news and social media, to name just a few.  It’s no wonder we become programmed to only think about negativity.  But in order to find true happiness, we must break that cycle.  So the next time something good happens to you, revel in it, for at least a few minutes.  Awaken each day with a positive attitude by saying “Today is going to be a good day”.  The more you focus on the positive aspects of your life, the more it will become a lifelong (and excellent) habit to have.

     

    Interpreting the events in your life can have a huge impact on your attitude and outlook.  Take the following example – you are standing in a crowded room and someone bumps into you, causing you to spill the contents of your drink on your new shirt.  You can interpret this several different ways; negatively, in which you believe the person bumped into you on purpose, positively, in which the person bumped into you by accident due to the crowded room, or neutrally, as in things happen and it’s not a big deal.  If you think about it negatively, you are more likely to become angry and agitated, leading you to feel upset and probably have a bad time.  If you think about things in a positive or neutral way, you are more likely to feel fine about what just happened, realizing it was out of your control.  This leads to more optimistic feelings about the situation.  Try your best to interpret the actions in your life in a positive (or at the very least, neutral) light.

     

    Memorizing the positive events in your life gives you something to fall back to in times of need.  Some people have an amazing ability to create vivid mental pictures in their mind of positive times; others may need to make a conscience effort to remember the events.  Take photographs of special times in your life that you can go back to when you are feeling down.  If you enjoy reading about special events, try keeping a journal of important times in your life.  Read the journal on a regular basis to keep a positive influence in your life; you can also consult the journal when times get tough.

     

    By AIMing for a more positive life, you allow yourself to be more focused and optimistic, which can help you to overcome anxiety, depression and other mental health problems.  For some people, the power of positivity can be enough to overcome the oppression of mental illness.  For others, positive psychology can (and should) be used in conjunction with medication and/or therapy.  Only you know the best course of action for yourself, but a little (or a lot) of positivity never hurt anyone.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/55236839@N00/3098125602

     


  8. What Makes People Flourish?

    March 27, 2014

     

    What Makes People Flourish?

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    Since the appearance of Positive Psychology at the end of last century, the concept of flourishing has been a central one. Like flowers blossom on Spring and everything starts coming to life after the cold Winter, how can people flourish in their lives and achieve greater levels of positivity and personal growth? And so Positive Psychology sets out to answer: What makes people flourish?

    What is flourishing?

    According to positive psychology authors and researchers, the concept of flourishing has to do with reaching optimal human functioning. We all humans carry within ourselves great potential which is mostly locked inside us and we can’t always reach it. Through self-improvement methods and the search for the fulfillment of our potential, most of us do unlock our talents and reach a life of flourishing. So if you’re thinking you don’t have it in you to flourish, think again. Luckily we all do.

    How can one flourish?

    It’s basically an individual process, but researcher and “father” of the Positive Psychology movement, Martin Seligman published in his most recent book Flourishing (2011), a theoretical approach to achieving well-being and life satisfaction through a process of flourishing.

    His PERMA model is based on five central states that one can achieve (actually the presence of 2 or more is enough to create greater well-being levels):

    • Positive Emotions
    • Engagement
    • Relationships
    • Meaning
    • Accomplishment

    Positive emotions play a key role in your lives as they are essential in our sense of well-being and our ability to be with others and even expand our minds and the way we think, see and feel. Engagement has to do with Csikszentmihalyi’s (1975) concept of flow. Flow refers to a state of full absorption in the task at hand where time and space seem to disappear and the task represents intrinsically motivation – we do it simply because we enjoy it. We can see many flow experiences in creative people like writers and painters who spent entire days performing their work in a solitude experience and even forget to eat!

    Positive interpersonal relationships are undeniably crucial to our well-being. It starts with our first attachment relationship with our mothers and it goes on for the rest of our lives (family, friends, spouses, and children). We are social beings and it is the quality of our relationships that help us perceive life as full and meaningful. Meaning which is another component of well-being, is obtained through the use of our signature strengths and talents in the service of something greater than ourselves (being a volunteer for instance).  Finally, Accomplishment – reaching one’s goals – enhances our motivation and self-efficacy feeling, propelling us to engage in more and challenging projects.

    So, in practice, how can you flourish?

    A few simple steps to start your flourishing process:

    • Find your talents. What are you really good at? And we all have different talents! If you don’t know what you’re really good at, it’s time to try new things until you figure it out!
    • Practice Mindfulness. Create a sense of aware towards yourself and what’s around you. Live in the present. Have you spent 2 minutes to observe that Spring is finally here again?
    • Cultivate positive and meaningful relationships in your life. Yes, again and again, friends and family are what makes this ride through life seem easier and more enjoyable.
    • Try to do something that you really enjoy. In a perfect world we would all be working in something we’re truly passionate about, something that would make work feel like a God’s gift. Unfortunately, if your 9-5 job isn’t like that, you may one consider another activity in your life that makes you feel like that.
    • Fulfill some of your dreams and projects. What is a life without dreams? Without hope?
    • Lead a meaningful life. This is actually a result of all of the above. Leading a life towards meaning is believing you’re a part of something greater, that your smaller actions are a mechanism of something greater than yourself and we all play a role in it.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vaneversion/8643805338/

     


  9. The Power of Positive Emotions

    March 23, 2014

    The Power of Positive Emotions

    by Daniela Aneis

    We all know the experience of positive emotions make us feel good with ourselves and others. But could they have another function other than just that? Evolutionary speaking, what are positive emotions for?

    Up until recently, research has been extensive on the so-called negative emotions and their role in evolution. It is posited that negative emotions were key in survival, where the “fight or flight” mechanism was crucial to our species endurance. The stress induced when facing a large animal where a decision had to be made if it dangerous or “potential food”, made our ancestors react, propelling them to action.

     

     But what about positive emotions? What good are they for?

     

    In 1998, researcher Barbara Fredrickson proposed the Broaden-and-built model of positive emotions. Feeling that research wasn’t paying enough attention to the role of positive emotions in human life, she set out to find out why we need positive emotions as much as the negative ones. She suggested that positive emotions broaden our scope of action-thinking and have a major role in physical, cognitive and social resources.

    Mainly, positive emotions are essential resources in resilience, serving as reserves to help us cope with adversity and promote health and well-being. Her research suggests that the more positive emotions people experience throughout their day and their lives, the faster they can react when faced with negative emotions.

    One of her most fascinating discoveries has to do with the fact that positive emotions can counteract the effects of negative ones. Meaning that the prolonged effects of negative emotions on cardiovascular diseases and cancer, for instance, can be counteracted with the experience of positive emotions. So if you lead an extremely stressful life, you might want to consider balancing the odds in your everyday life by introducing space for positive emotions.

     

    Are people who experience positive emotions at a greater level different from the rest of us?

     

    Not quite. People who experience positive emotions at a great level tend to pay a great deal of attention to positive emotions, and their reserves of positive emotions function as an upward spiral of positivity (Fredrickson, 2001). Consciously or unconsciously, positive emotions seekers tend to find positive emotions even in neutral situations and view the negative ones as part of a necessary personal growth (Diener & Biwas-Diener, 2008).

     

    Are people who experience more positive emotions happier?

     

    In his 2002 book Authentic Happiness, the “father” of Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman states that happiness (or well-being is now the correct term to use) can be achieved through:

    • The seeking of pleasure;
    • The seeking of engagement activities;
    • The search for meaning in life.

    In a research done in 2005, researchers Peterson, Park and Seligman set out to answer what makes a full life so different from the empty life? Mainly they were interested in knowing whether the experience of positive emotions through pleasure, engagement or meaning contributed to a sense of greater well-being and life satisfaction and if those 3 experiences were any different between themselves. They found evidence that all 3 types of positive experiences where key in building up a sense of general well-being and higher levels of life satisfaction. However the 3 types of experiences seemed to have no difference between themselves.

    Nonetheless, the authors still state that a life of eudemonia – the search for personal improvement and fulfillment – versus a life of hedonism – a constant seek for pleasure may result in a more enduring happiness. The idea that a life based on the search for meaning entails a happier life finds resonance in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy theory, where the key to leading a full life is a meaningful one.

     

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/70194213@N00/7161763179


  10. Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    March 20, 2014

    Psychological footprints: What are you leaving behind?

    by Daniela Aneis

     

    Dinosaurs have lived millions of years ago often leaving nothing but their fossilized footprints behind. What if you could also leave a psychological footprint behind? The term psychological footprint used by Whitbourne and Whitbourne (2014) refers to the positive or negative influence you have on others and how that affects their lives and the environment around you. We’ve all had the nature vs. nurture discussion in our lives at some point: is it nurture that defines me or is it nature? But what about your influence in nature and nurture? Your influence in what’s around you? How to measure that?

    Leaving something of yourself behind.

    You may not see it or even realize it, but you have an impact on your environment. Just by existing at this time and place, you’re changing what’s around you. Let’s try a difficult exercise. Can you imagine what it would be like for everyone you’ve ever met if you had never existed? What would they be missing out? Though one to think through? Don’t worry, that’s just our egocentrism at work. We just can’t imagine a world where we wouldn’t exist! Let’s try an easier one: have you ever asked a close friend what have they learned from you? What has meeting you made them different? Ask and be surprised with the answers. Usually in life it’s the little things that leave great impressions.

    What psychological footprints do you have on yourself?

    Think about all the people that have inspired and touched your life. Parents, grandparents, your first teacher, your neighbors, your minister, your childhood friends… Ever tried writing them a thank you letter for all the precious moments you’ve had with them? This a powerful exercise that Martin Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology) often does in his classes. At the end of each semester he promotes a little get together between students and the receivers of the letters, where the letters are read out loud and it’s not unusual for tears of joy to run. It’s a very powerful tool in therapy as well specially in grief counselling.

    (more…)